William Robins

Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies; Graduate Faculty
Northrop Frye Hall, Room 226, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7


Fields of Study


William Robins is the former President of Victoria University and Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. His research spans from Late-Antiquity through the Middle Ages to the Italian Renaissance, tracking the circulation of literary texts as they are transmitted and transformed across national borders, bibliographic media, and linguistic communities. He describes how cultures engage, develop, and reshape the stories of their historical predecessors—and how they use the knowledge of the past to devise new ways of understanding their present. His research goals currently converge in two major projects: a wide-ranging analysis of Boccaccio’s Decameron and its intertextual networks in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe, part of which has appeared in Speculum; and a comprehensive study of Apollonius of Tyre and its influence on the literary and socio-cultural practices of Medieval and Renaissance Italy, which is supported by an Insight Grant from SSHRC. Complementary to both projects is his work with the Lectura Boccaccii series, for which he is editing the volume of essays dedicated to Decameron, Day Eight. His previous contributions include two edited collections—Textual Cultures of Medieval Italy, and Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature—as well as a critical edition of Antonio Pucci’s Cantari della Reina d’Oriente.

Professor Robins similarly fuses book history, literary analysis, and cultural criticism in the classroom, for which he earned the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Faculty of Arts and Science in 2014. He has directed academic graduate programs in Book History and Print Culture and in Editing Medieval Texts, and he is the founder and coordinator of the annual Canada Chaucer Seminar. As President of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, Robins strengthens collaborations among students, faculty, and members of the wider community as he publicly champions the values of liberal education, social conscience, and humanistic inquiry.

Office Hours

By Appointment.



Textual Cultures of Medieval Italy. Edited by William Robins. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2011.

Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature: Essays in Honour of John V. Fleming. Edited by Robert Epstein and William Robins. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2010.

Antonio Pucci: I cantari della Reina d' Oriente, edizioni critiche, with Attilio Motta Bologna: Commissione per i Testi di Lingua, 2007.

Representative Articles

“Intertextuality and Romance in the Novella of Bernarbò and Zinevra (Decameron 2.9).” Forthcoming in Heliotropia.

The Case of the Court Entertainer: Popular Culture, Intertextual Dialogue, and the Early Circulation of Boccaccio’s Decameron,” Speculum 92 (2017): 1-35.

“Modular Dynamics in the South English Legendary.” In Rethinking the South English Legendaries. Ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne and Heather Blurton. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 2011. 187-208.

Three Tales of Female Same-Sex Marriage: Ovid's ‘Iphis and Ianthe,’ the Old French Yde et Olive, and Antonio Pucci's Reina d'Oriente.Exemplaria 21.1 (2009): 43–62.

Editing and Evolution,” Literature Compass 3 (2006): 89–120.

Romance and Renunciation at the Turn of the Fifth Century.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 8 (2000): 531–58.

“Romance, Exemplum, and the Subject of the Confessio Amantis,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 19 (1997): 157–81.


BA, Brown University
MPhil, University of St Andrews
PhD, Princeton University